A Surprising Amount Of Insects Decapitate Their Enemies
When it comes to gruesome acts of violence, it is likely assumed that only humans would have imagination enough to resort to the severing of heads. However, humans are far from being the only animals that decapitate others. Even tiny-brained insects enjoy the occasional decapitation of an enemy. Of course, not all insects indulge in this brutal act of violence, but there are a surprising number of insects that are undeniable headhunters.
One of the smallest flying insects in existence decapitates ants regularly. A recent study has revealed that three different types of tropical flies, known as phorid flies, will feed on the heads of trap-jaw ants. To be more specific, these phorid flies will use their super-sharp mouthparts to quickly decapitate trap-jaw ants in order to consume the contents of their heads. However, not all phorid flies make a meal out of the heads of these ants. Sometimes these flies use decapitated ant heads as an ideal storage hutch for their eggs. How resourceful.
There is a species of dung beetle, known as Canthon virens, that also makes good use of ant heads. These beetles seem to prefer decapitating only the queens that belong to colonies of leafcutter ants. After decapitation, the former queen-ant’s head is buried beneath the ground along with the offending beetle. While underground, this beetle places its eggs into the hollowed ant head so that its larvae can develop properly. Similar to how other dung beetle species roll feces for long distances, these dung beetles have been observed rolling the heads of leafcutter ants for considerable distances prior to burial. When it comes to the Canthon virens species of dung beetle, it seems that “heads will roll”.
Perhaps the most well known of head-eating insects is the female praying mantis. During the initial stages of copulation, female mantises will bite off the heads of their mates, but not just for their own pleasure. According to biologist, William Brown, by removing the male’s head, a nerve is severed that causes the males to copulate with less inhibition, allowing for a greater chance of insemination. Well….perhaps this decapitation is for the pleasure of the female mantis after all.
Can you name any other insects that remove the heads of other members of their own species? Do you believe that insects remove the heads of other insects for the sole purpose of self-preservation, or to assist with reproduction? Or could some insects decapitate others for no clear reason?